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PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58166. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058166. Epub 2013 Mar 6.

Human emotion experiences can be predicted on theoretical grounds: evidence from verbal labeling.

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  • 1Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.


In an effort to demonstrate that the verbal labeling of emotional experiences obeys lawful principles, we tested the feasibility of using an expert system called the Geneva Emotion Analyst (GEA), which generates predictions based on an appraisal theory of emotion. Several thousand respondents participated in an Internet survey that applied GEA to self-reported emotion experiences. Users recalled appraisals of emotion-eliciting events and labeled the experienced emotion with one or two words, generating a massive data set on realistic, intense emotions in everyday life. For a final sample of 5969 respondents we show that GEA achieves a high degree of predictive accuracy by matching a user's appraisal input to one of 13 theoretically predefined emotion prototypes. The first prediction was correct in 51% of the cases and the overall diagnosis was considered as at least partially correct or appropriate in more than 90% of all cases. These results support a component process model that encourages focused, hypothesis-guided research on elicitation and differentiation, memory storage and retrieval, and categorization and labeling of emotion episodes. We discuss the implications of these results for the study of emotion terms in natural language semantics.

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